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2018 Week 1 Lehigh Players of the Week and Report Card: St. Francis (PA)

This season, I thought it would be a good idea to do a LFN report card on how the team did last week as well as reviving the old "LFN Players of the Week" to go along with it.  Lehigh's 21-19 win last week over St. Francis was, most importantly, a victory, but as hardcore Lehigh football fans we want a deeper view and analysis.

So here we go.

QUARTERBACK: C+.  The first reveal of the 2018 season was that senior QB Brad Mayes was going to be sitting out the 1st quarter.

Though Mayes rebounded from the quarter-long suspension somewhat, and junior QB Tyler Monaco filled in well with basically error-free ball when he was in there, Mayes' absence in the 1st quarter seemed to have an impact on the game because he didn't seem to totally be in offensive rhythm in the first half.  He showed flashes of his big-play ability in the second half, but the truth is against Villanova next week Lehigh Nation needs him up and ready from the get-go.

Hard to expand on the tremendous job senior RB Dominick Bragalone did on offense for the Mountain Hawks last Saturday.  His 52 yard TD run where he kicked in a fourth gear to blow past the defensive back -  adding a sweet kick move right before the goal line to evade a final attempt at a tackle - will be a staple on the 2018 Lehigh football highlight reel. 

Not to be lost was the debut of freshman RB Rashawn Allen, who ran 5 times for 18 yards but got some critical 1st downs.

Senior WR Luke Christiano, senior WR Sasha Kelsey and sophomore WR Jorge Portorreal did a solid job moving the sticks and coming up with some big plays, especially a highlight-reel catch by Portorreal on a beautiful pass from Mayes.  But none of the starting three came up with the type of big touchdown that might have really electrified the crowd and taken the wind out of the Red Flash.

An area of concern going into the season, in the area of run blocking the offensive line did exceptionally well, not only allowing Bragalone to break the all-time Lehigh rushing record but also essentially winning the physical battle in the trench against St. Francis (PA)'s big, aggressive defensive line.  But the blocking breakdown on the fumble that was recovered in the end zone reveals that the Mountain Hawks do need to continue to improve in pass protection in general.  The line only gave up 2 sacks, but the one that was yielded could have been a game-breaker.

Though not as explosive a season opener as some, the Mountain Hawks did manage to navigate a bit of a rusty start and score enough points to get a really important victory.  It really helps to have an all-American candidate running the ball and coming up with highlight-reel plays, but overall it's a good solid performance that should set the table going forward.

It was a joy to see the front six play such a tremendous game, at a level Lehigh Nation hopes to see a lot this year.  It has been a while since Lehigh Nation saw a game with 11 tackles for loss on the Lehigh side, many of them coming up front, and another really great thing to see was great tackling as well, holding the Red Flash to just a little over 50 rushing yards in the game. 

The defensive backs gave up 250 yards through the air to the Red Flash, many on 50/50 balls, but that shouldn't obscure the two important picks, one by CB Marquis Wilson to prevent the 2-point try that would have tied the game and the other by CB Donavon Harris that stopped a key St. Francis (PA) drive in the 4th quarter.  More importantly there wasn't any one, singular big play given up on defense that could have lost the game, while guys like DB Divine Buckrham and S Riley O'Neil came up with huge tackles and plays to put Lehigh in position to win.  O'Neil's tackle of St. Francis RB Jymere Jordan-Toney short of the 1st down marker on 3rd down forced St. Francis (PA) to go for the go-ahead field goal, which was blocked - a huge, huge play.

A real joy to watch on Saturday, especially after all of the well-publicized struggles from last season.  Right from the get-go this entire unit seems to be setting a really good tone for the entire season.

So many little things came together for Lehigh on special teams.  Despite a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a FG try (that may have been a bad call, because the defender got a piece of the ball), Lehigh's special teams did an outstanding job.  Not much press was given to P/K Austin Henning's kickoffs (4 touchbacks), P/K Ed Mish's punting (more than 40 yards net per punt), and nailing his extra point attempts, all three aspects played an important part in the win.  Senior S Sam McCloskey saved a near-certain touchdown with a huge special teams tackle on S Nick Rinella on the one kickoff that was returnable.   And, of course, the blocked FG from St. Francis that was (admittedly) a low kick but one where the Lehigh line was able to get really good push on the St. Francis return unit to secure the victory.  Overall, this unit played extremely clean when special teams in general around FCS on Week One is anything but. 

LFN Players of the Week:

Offense: RB Dom Bragalone (137 yards rushing, 3 TDs, all-time Lehigh rushing leader)
Defense: DB Divine Buckrham (11 tackles, 10 solo, 1 TFL)
Special Teams: S Sam McCloskey (7 tackles, 6 solo, tackle on return that saved TD)
Underclassman: DE Jack Kircher (4 tackles, 3 TFL to lead defense)


Anonymous said…
Yes a win is important but this was ST FRANCIS a team you would expect to beat by at least 10 points . That was a field goal that most teams make . The offense was not better then last year , but yes the defense looked improved but now lets see how they do vs Villanova . I would hope the Lehigh nation turns out in force , over 10,000 in the stands , because Villanova played like a national contender in beating Temple . Navy next will run the ball down the defensive units throats and playing at strong Penn & Princeton teams away will be a challenge . The Patriot games will be a lot easier then the next 4 . Hopefully the Engineer's
will show up as these 4 games are a murders row . If they play like Mountain Hawk's which is really a Turkey Vulture they go 0-4 . My late Father's 40 years in the blast furnace at the Steel he was a proud Engineer not a dumb bird . If they win two of the next 4 they win the Patriot . Good luck Andy a class guy .
Anonymous said…
Giving an A- to the special teams makes no sense. I thought the kickoff coverage was poor, continuing a problem we had all of last year.
Douglas said…
I agree that the kickoff coverage was bad.. Henning's KO's were not that great.. Mish was solid with both XP and Punts though.. I agree they were lucky to win.. Defense was better.. Once Mayes got in there, the offense was better but miss those goto receivers.. Bad play calling at the end ( reminded me of my Jags vs Pats trying to kill clock rather than being more aggressive) almost cost them... I figured after the Int they would march in and close it out...
Thank you for this review!

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